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Bolivia’s President Evo Morales opens United Nations Session on Indigenous Issues

LatinaLista — Almost 600 languages have disappeared in the last century, according to UNESCO. On top of that gloomy news is the fact that languages continue to disappear at a rate of one language every two weeks.
If current trends continue, it is forecast that up to 90 percent of the world’s languages are likely to disappear before the end of the century.
It’s a serious issue and only one of several that face the indigenous populations of the world. This week at the United Nations, more than 3,300 people from indigenous populations from around the world will attend the two-week conference of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.
The conference theme is the stewardship role of indigenous peoples in relation to climate change, biocultural diversity and livelihoods.
Because of historic and cultural ties that the indigenous have had with the planet, many indigenous people knew before the rest of the world that the planet was environmentally in trouble. However, due to discrimination and a lack of understanding indigenous ways, the mainstream public never heeded the

Bolivian President Evo Morales
Part of the reason why the concerns of the indigenous are not paid attention to is because too few indigenous hold high political office.
Yet, ”

in the first-ever address to the Forum by a Head of State, President Evo Morales of Bolivia urged the body to develop a model for “how to live well”, to counter an economic system where a thirst for wealth had overwhelmed a sense of respect for sustainable living.
In a speech greeted by cheers from an audience comprising leaders of indigenous groups, representatives of Member States and officials from United Nations specialized agencies, President Morales proposed a set of “10 commandments” that would offer an alternative to “egoism, regionalism and the pursuit of luxury”. 

President Morales’ 10 Commandments are:
1. End the capitalist system. The capitalist system was inhuman and encouraged unbridled economic development. The exploitation of human beings and pillaging of natural resources must end, as should wars aimed at securing access to those resources. Also, the world should end the plundering of fossil fuels; excessive consumption of goods; the accumulation of waste; as well as the egoism, regionalism and thirst for earning where the pursuit of luxury was taking place at the expense of human beings. Countries of the south were heaped with external debt, when it was the ecological debt that needed paying.
2. The world should denounce war, which brought advantage to a small few, he said. In that vein, it was time to end occupation under the pretext of “combating drugs”, such as in South America, as well as other pretexts such as searching for weapons of mass destruction. Money earmarked for war should be channeled to make reparations for damage caused to the Earth.
3. A world without imperialism where no country was dependent upon or subordinate to another. States must look for complementarity rather than engage in unfair competition with each other. Member States of the United Nations should consider the asymmetry that exists among nations and seek a way to lessen deep economic differences. Moving along those lines, he said the Security Council — with its lifelong members holding veto rights — should be democratized.
4. Access to water should be treated as a human right, and policies allowing the privatization of water should be banned. Indigenous peoples had a long experience of mobilizing themselves to uphold the right to water. He proposed that they put forth the idea of forming an international convention on water to guarantee it as a human right and to protect against its appropriation by a select few.
5. The world should promote clean and eco-friendly energies, as well as end the wasteful use of energy. He said it was understood that fossil fuels were nearing depletion, yet those who promoted biofuels in their place were making “a serious mistake”. It was not right to set aside land not for the benefit of human beings, but so that a small few could operate luxurious vehicles. It was also because of biofuels that the price of rice and bread has risen; and the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) were now warning that such policies must be prevented. The world should explore more sustainable forms of alternative energy, such as geothermal, solar, wind and hydro-electric power.
6. More respect for Mother Earth, and the indigenous movement must bring its influence to bear in fostering that attitude. The world must stop thinking of Mother Earth in the capitalist sense — which was that of a raw material to be traded. For who could privatize or hire out his mother?
7. The importance of gaining access to basic services for all. Services such as education and transport should not be the preserve of private trade.
8. Consume only what was necessary and what was produced locally. There was a need to end consumerism, waste and luxury. It was an irony that millions of dollars were being spent to combat obesity in one half of the globe, while the other was dying of hunger. He said the impending food crisis would necessarily bring an end to the free market, where countries suffering hunger were being made to export their food. There was a similar case with oil, where the priority lay in selling it abroad, rather than domestically.
9. Important to promote unity and diversity of economies, and that the indigenous movement should put forth a call for unity and diversity in the spirit of multilateralism.
10. The world should live under the tenet of “trying to live well,” but not at the expense of others.

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  • Indigenous peoples researcher
    April 23, 2008 at 3:55 pm

    These are great points. Giving equal access to such natural resources as water and land for agriculture is essential if we are to give indigenous people’s their human rights as set forth under the Declaration.

  • Alex
    June 30, 2008 at 5:46 pm

    Those are very well thought ideas. The world would be a much better place if these “commandments” become the guidelines for solving international conflicts or problems. I doubt rich countries will do it. They will do whatever it takes to silence them.

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